Continued from “Fight for the Souls”
The zeal of the Arabs to spread Muhammad’s word that catered to their innate urge to plunder, which for Edward Gibbon made Islam the profitable religion of Arabia, obliterated the great cultures of the time, occasioned by his thesis that “the Koran inculcates, in the most absolute sense, the tenets of fate and predestination, which would extinguish both industry and virtue, if the actions of man were governed by his speculative belief.”
Whatever, after the initial fanatical momentum, the Arabs, bereft of any political culture to name, began to yield the pan Islamic temporal ground to the very peoples - the Turks, the Persians and the Afghans - they had coerced into their faith. It’s the irony of history that these very peoples, subjugated by the Arabs to the detriment of their gods, had furthered the cause of Islam with the swords of their own, of course, fired by their ambition and fuelled by the newfound religious zeal. No less paradoxically, as these converts came to undermine the Arab authority in the emerging Umma, the purveyors of the faith retreated into their tents, which deprived them of any further partake in the affairs of the Islamic world, that is till the petrodollars made them the masters of the domain of the Musalmans once again.
On the other hand the Brahmans, the authors of the Aryan caste system that inflicted grievous wounds on the body polity of the grand land, continued to hold sway over the Hindu social consciousness with their intellectual savvy and religious orthodoxy that is well after the Arabs had resigned to their inglorious fate. Besides, in the Vedic times, the Brahmans were well adept at warfare too, as the exploits of the Dronacharyas, Aswathamas et al in the epic battle of Mahabharata would illustrate. Even in the earlier Ramayana times, Parasurama, the Lord’s avatar as a Brahman, emphasized the Brahmanic ethos of the Vedic times thus:
agratas chaturo veedan
prushtash saran dhanoo
idam kshatram idam brahmayam
sepaadapi saraa dapi
Spar at not a Vedic soul
Armed to the teeth as well,
Brain ’n brawn as thus combined
Curse I might or subdue thee.
While the Aryan political fabric in myriad social colors, woven with the wharf of varna and the weft of dharma, was worn by varied caste groups in their accorded custom (swadharma), ordained by the country code (sanaatana dharma), the power of the Hindu State willed in enforcing the dharmic order in all its manifestations. If each caste were to adhere to its own dharma without let or hindrance, so it was assumed, all was well with the State itself.
However in time, what with the gradual decline of the great Aryan empires giving way to tiny kingdoms and banana republics, internecine battles for the domination of the no man’s land of Aryavarta became the norm rather than an exception. Understandably, the Brahmans could not have remained immune to the political turmoil around, which would have threatened their cultural hegemony that they had inherited, and so were embroiled in intrigues with a view to retain their hold on the political handles of what they came to call as the karmabhoomi. But with the diminishing stature of the rulers of the land, their own political diminution was not far off, and so they too ceased to be the wise ministers they used to be. So, when Mahmud’s father was building border roads in Afghanistan to enable his son to war his way into Somnath, there was no Chanakya in the Brahman ranks then to build the political bridges in India. And adding to the woes of the Aryavarta, its kshatriyas too, for far too long weren’t producing Vikramaadityas of yore.
Thus, the decline of the Brahmanic sagacity and the pettiness of the kshatriya princes, together weakened the Indian political State further, setting in motion the Hindu socio-political degeneration that insensibly led the vexed multitudes into their regional shells of self-destruction. It was into this India in coma that the Afghan Armageddon of Mahmud of Ghazni had a cakewalk for unleashing an era of loot and plunder in the land of Hindustan.
The episode that changed the psyche of the Hindus forever is thus narrated in Romila Thapar’s “A History of India” published by Penguin India.
“Temples were depositories of vast quantities of wealth, in cash, golden images, and jewellery – the donations of the pious and these made them natural targets for a non-Hindu searching for wealth in northern India. Mahmud’s greed for gold was insatiable. From 1010 to 1026 the invasions of Mahmud were directed to temple towns – Mathura, Thanesar, Kanauj, and finally Somnath. The concentration of wealth at Somnath was renowned, and consequently it was inevitable that Mahmud would attack it. Added to the desire for wealth was the religious motivation, iconoclasm being a meritorious activity among the more orthodox followers of the Islamic faith. The destruction at Somnath was frenzied, and its effect was to remain for many centuries in the Hindu mind and to color its assessment of the character of Mahmud, and on occasion of Muslim rulers in general. A thirteenth-century account from an Arab source refers to this event.
‘Somnat – a celebrated city of India situated on the shore of the sea and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnat. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was held in the highest honor among the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Musulman or an infidel.
The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand. They believed that the souls of men used to meet there after separation from the body and that the idol used to incorporate them at its pleasure in other bodies in accordance with their doctrine of transmigration. The ebb and flow of the tide was considered to be the worship paid to the idol by the sea. Everything of the most precious was brought there as offerings, and the temple was endowed with more than ten thousand villages. There is a river (the Ganges), which is held sacred, between which, and Somnat the distance is two hundred parasangs. They used to bring the water of this river to Somnat every day and wash the temple with it. A thousand Brahmans were employed in worshipping the idol and attending on the visitors, and five hundred damsels sung and danced at the door - all these were maintained upon the endowments of the temple.
The edifice was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak covered with lead. The shrine of the idol was dark but was lighted by jewelled chandeliers of great value. Near it was a chain of gold weighing two hundred mans. When a portion (watch) of the night closed, this chain used to be shaken like bells to rouse a fresh lot of Brahmans to perform worship. When the Sultan went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnat, in the hope that the Hindus would become Muhammadans. He arrived there in the middle of … December A. D. 1025.
The Indians made a desperate resistance. They would go weeping and crying for help into the temple and then issue forth to battle and fight till all were killed. The number of slain exceeded 50,000. The king looked upon the idol with wonder and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil and the appropriation of the treasures. There were many idols of gold and silver and vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India. The value of the things found in the temple and of the idols exceeded twenty thousand dinars.
When the king asked his companions what they had to say about the marvel of the idol, and of its staying in the air without prop or support, several maintained that it was upheld by some hidden support. The king directed a person to go and feel all around and above and below it with a spear, which he did but met with no obstacle. One of the attendants then stated his opinion that the canopy was made of loadstone, and the idol of iron, and that the ingenious builder had skillfully contrived that the magnet should not exercise a greater force on any one side - hence the idol was suspended in the middle. Some coincided, others differed. Permission was obtained from the Sultan to remove some stones from the top of the canopy to settle the point. When two stones were removed from the summit the idol swerved on one side, when more were taken away it inclined still further, until at last it rested on the ground.”
Shocked did Mahmud the Hindus into dejection, as Romila Thapar picks up the historical debris of Somnath thus:
“The raids of Mahmud did not make India aware of the world to her northwest or of the events taking place there. Confederacies had been formed, but not with a view to organizing defense on a national scale, utilizing resources from various parts of the subcontinent or even northern India. Defense was linked to the immediate purpose of assisting kings to maintain their kingdoms; the significance of Mahmud’s raids as paving the way in northern India for further attacks from the north-west was not fully grasped. Mahmud was just another mlechchha as had been the Shakas and the Huns. They had been absorbed and forgotten, as so too presumably would Mahmud and his armies.
The death of Mahmud in any case removed the need for vigilance on the north-west, especially as his successors were less interested in the plains of northern India. The Indian rulers returned to their internal squabbles. When the second attack came from the north-west under the leadership of Muhammad Ghuri at the end of the twelfth century India was, for all practical purposes, as unprepared as she had been for meeting the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni.”
Besides, what Alberuni saw around the time of Mahmud’s onslaught on India corroborates Thapar’s account of it.
“… From that time dates their aversion towards the countries of Khurasan. But then came Islam; the Persian empire perished, and the repugnance of the Hindus against foreigners increased more and more when the Muslims began to make their inroads into their country; for Muhammad Ibn Elkasim Ibn Elmunabbih entered Sindh from the side of Sijistan (Sakastene) and conquered the cities of Bahmanwa and Mulasthana, the former of which he called Al-mansura, the latter Al-mamura. He entered India proper, and penetrated even as far as Kanauj, marched through the country of Gandhara, and on his way back, through the confines of Kashmir, sometimes fighting sword in hand, sometimes gaining his ends by treaties, leaving to the people their ancient belief, except in the case of those who wanted to become Muslims. All these events planted a deeply rooted hatred in their hearts.
Now in the following times no Muslim conqueror passed beyond the frontier of Kabul and the river Sindh until the days of the Turks, when they seized the power in Ghazna under the Samani dynasty, and the supreme power fell to the lot of Nasir- addaula Sabuktagin. This prince chose the holy war as his calling, and therefore called himself Al-Ghazi (i.e. warring on the road of Allah). In the interest of his successors he constructed, in order to weaken the Indian frontier, those roads on which afterwards his son Yamin-addaula Mahmud marched into India during a period of thirty years and more. God be merciful to both father and Son!
Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims. This is the reason, too, why Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benares, and other places. And there the antagonism between them and all foreigners receives more and more nourishment both from political and religious sources.”
Well, to add to this tale, there was the old Muslim misconception about Hinduism as an idol worshipping paganism, against which Muhammad infused hatred amongst the believers that the Musalmans nursed. Hence, once Islam happened to reach the other side of the Hindukush, it was in no mood to either suffer the scent of the sanctums sanctorum of the Hindu deities or allow the kafirs a free reign over their monumental mandirs across those mountain ranges. So, again and again, for the satiation the greed of the Ghazanis and Ghuris, the marauders of a Muslamans, Hindustan became a logical destination for rapine not to speak of manslaughter. Thus, over time, Aryavarta, the Hindu karmabhoomi, was reduced into fiefdoms of the Nawabs of the Musalmans.
The unique features of faith, as well as prejudice, are that they are subject to the cascading effect brought about by the tendency of the protagonists for enthusiastic one-upmanship. If the Islamic faith became a dogma of the Musalmans akin to paranoia, then the Brahman haughtiness was transformed into the Hindu insensitivity. The fate meted out by the insensitive Hindu polity, molded in Brahman orthodoxy, to those of their ilk taken as prisoners by the Musalmans in the battles for the Indian domain would illustrate the tragedy of the times. That these valiant men, who staked their lives in guarding their ancient land from falling into the alien hands, were not readmitted into the parent fold even after their release by, or escape from, their captors for their association with the mlechhas, their enforced confinement occasioned! And those valiant men, rendered hapless by the prejudices of the Brahmans, had nowhere else to go in their own land but to the Islamic camp. What rank Hindu ingratitude to those patriots out to protect their homeland and its ancient way of life! Wonder if there is any parallel of such a social cruelty in the annals of human history!
Arguably, the curse of those hurt Hindu souls, which were cruelly driven into the Islamic bodies that could be forever restless in their Muslim graves, could be behind the tragedies the Hindus faced for centuries on. Oh, what an eternal shame and won’t the Hindus of the day, and those who would follow, owe an apology to the progeny of those. But then, even now do we really care for, much less value, our men in the uniform as we should be doing? Wish the Hindus, instead of gloating over the wisdom of the Upanishads that they fail to imbibe, any way, would try to develop a historical sense of their cultural aberrations for a social course correction.
While Ghazani and Ghuri subjected Hindustan to their raids and runs of plunder, the Sultans who came in their wake had set up their domains of self-aggrandizement. The wealth of the land was misused for the grandeur of their courts and the upkeep of their harems, needless to say, to the detriment of the populace. The opulent palaces built for their living and the grandiose tombs erected for their dead that dot the Indian subcontinent bear testimony to the callousness of these settlers of Musalman rulers. It is as if they hadn’t any value for life other than their own.
So, with the remnants of the Hindu State yielding ground, first to the Sultanic Rule and then to the British Raj, the swadharma of various varnas began to degenerate into varied caste creeds to the hurt of the Indian social unity and purpose. Thus it can be said in hindsight that it was the concept of swadharma that was the undoing of India for it negated the growth of a unifying religion for all to live by and die for. But it was the near millennia reign of the alien settler races, devoid of concern for the public good and lacking a stake in the welfare of the State, which for centuries on put India in a state of social coma. What is worse for the unfortunate citizens, as if the foreign rulers of yore had laid down the norms for ruling Aryavarta for all times to come, the politicians of free India have stuck to the ethos of the aliens in governing their own country.
Continued to “Double Jeopardy”
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